One of the most fascinating aspects of Love Live! School Idol Project and Love Live! School Idol Festival fandom is the sheer divisive nature of the character Nico Yazawa. While the other Love Live! characters have fairly amiable personalities and few haters, Nico’s combination of genuine enthusiasm and abrasiveness towards others has resulted in lines drawn in the sand; most fans feel strongly about Nico one way or another. Therefore, as someone who is “Pro-Nico,” I thought I’d explain why the very same qualities that draw ire from others are what I enjoy about the character.
Yazawa Nico’s is an idol enthusiast turned idol herself who has trained to “punch” well above her weight class. She is among the youngest-looking members of her school idol group μ’s despite also being among the oldest, and it means that she has neither the mature charm of her classmates nor the innocent enthusiasm of her underclassmen. She also lacks inherent talent as an idol, devoting her time and effort into researching and practicing the necessary steps to succeed.
One consequence of this behavior is that Nico can be viewed as a two-faced character. Nico tries to act innocent on the surface, but is sly and manipulative on the inside. Her attempts to use her honed image of cuteness contrast greatly with the natural charms of her fellow group members such as Hanayo or Kotori. Combined with the fact that Nico is also the character most dedicated to doing things the “right way” in terms of marketability, she becomes the one furthest from the ideal of the idol as paragon of purity performing on stage.
However, that cynicism is also where Nico’s appeal lies. Nico has to make up for a lack of talent with hard work and passion. What others can achieve based on feel, she has to reach through diligence and focus. This mindset is encapsulated in her signature catchphrase, “Nico Nico Nii!” Unlike other characters in Love Live!—or in fact many other anime, manga, and games—this is not just something she does unconsciously. It is a meticulously crafted promotion method based on her research and understanding of idols and idol fans.
And yet, despite the seemingly jaded nature of this approach, Nico is by far the biggest lover of school idols in μ’s. As stated early on in the anime, Nico believes strongly in the idea of the school idol as a more innocent space that does not have to deal with the rigors and tribulations of professional celebrity media. As seen with her sustained love of A-Rise (even after they become rivals of μ’s), she is the one most inspired and uplifted by the performances of school idols. Nico is a fan, through and through.
What makes Nico so divisive is that she is paradoxically the most and least cynical of the girls in Love Live! She is a living pile of contradictions, and this can be seen as either her most endearing quality, or one that relegates her to comic relief. I’m a Nico fan, how about you?